Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Casablanca: Not Really That Great of a Movie

I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but let’s be real here for a minute. Casablanca. Yes, the Casablanca. The only film that everyone has both heard of and actually seen. The film hands-down most frequently cited as “The Greatest Film of All Time.” That Casablanca

…is pretty okay. Yeah, it’s a good flick. The characters are memorable, the conflicts are compelling, the acting and production are solid. Especially for an old film, it does a pretty decent job of being more than just a “filmed play.” Unlike other films with an overblown reputation (cough Citizen Kane cough cough), it’s actually coherent and enjoyable.

But that’s all. It’s not remotely reasonable to even begin to think that it ranks among the greatest films of all time. That may have been a semi-rational fleeting thought to have had when it first came out in theatres, but today, with the benefit of 60 more years of cinematic history behind us, it’s inexcusable. This film isn’t even “Top 10” material let alone “All-Time Greatest.” It’s good, maybe even great, but greatest? Come on.

Casablanca is a mish-mash written by half a dozen different writers who only agreed on three things: that Nazis are bad, that patriotism consists of singing your national anthem louder than someone else’s national anthem in a country that doesn’t belong to either of you, and that rape is quaint when the French do it. And you’ve gotta be suspicious of whether people are even paying attention to their “favorite” film when the most famous, most quoted line is not actually in the film. Really, just consider that for a moment.

Oh, and you people-of-a-certain-philosophy who love that ruggedly independent Rick, didja miss his penultimate line about the “troubles of two people not being worth a hill of beans in this world?” Oh yeah, there’s a guy who really knows how to value romantic relationships. That line turns a film that could have been about two noble people facing an incredibly difficult decision between a powerful first love and an equally powerful rebound love, with a heroic man ultimately saving the love of his life from what he knows would be a mistake despite the cost to him, into a dramatic ode to self-sacrifice because “this guy might not write as many anti-Nazi books if you don’t keep sleeping with him.”

The universal over-praising of this film is the best example I can think of of ongoing mass hysteria. This happens all the time with chicks and their chick movies. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, anyone? Why are all women so obsessed with that film? Is it because the incredibly depressing story of a sexually abused child turned teen bride to a creepy old hick turned prostitute is so very relatable for us as a sex? Or is it because we are all secretly incredibly racist against Asians? Of course not.

The real reason we love this movie, aside from Audrey Hepburn’s 14-inch waist and that cat, is because every woman we’ve ever met has told us it’s her favorite movie. We’d be traitors to the clitoris if we admitted it is really just pretty okay. Ok, so women are followers. We know this. But men, what’s your excuse for rolling on your backs at the sight of Humphrey Bogart like a yearling before the alpha male?

Oh. That.

 It’s time to end the madness, people. It’s time to see clearly and evaluate independently. Or, if you can’t manage that, just repeat after me:

Casablanca…is just pretty okay.

Hugs and kisses,

S. Misanthrope


  1. Agree wholeheartedly. Most people don't even really know this movie--just it's reputation and what they've built up in their memories. Want proof that the story is water-thin? As yourself this: Could this movie be remade with modern actors? Know why not? Because it's more about the (admittedly great) performances by Bogart, Bergman and Raines than about the script (which is actually pretty bad if you look at it objectively.) But the "greatest movie of all time" must be great in all ways--script, acting, pacing, etc.